CONCORD — Sen. Andrew Hosmer, a Democrat from Laconia, has introduced legislation to repeal the statute restricting the height of handlebars on motorcycles and return so-called “ape-hangers” to the roads of the Granite State.
New Hampshire is now among more than 30 states that limit the height of handlebars. The statute prohibits motorcycles fitted with grips “higher than than the shoulder level of the driver when in the seat or saddle.” It also prohibits riding a motorcycle with “improvised, defective, or repaired handlebars.”
Hosmer could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
“I applaud Sen. Hosmer for sponsoring this bill,” said Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association.
He noted that New Hampshire began regulating handlebars in 1967, a time when many state legislatures associated motorcycling with the counter-culture captured by films like “The Wild Ones” and “Easy Rider.”
“I have never heard the height of handlebars presented as a safety issue,” he said. “There is no history of accidents caused by high bars.”
“Law enforcement pulled people over for high bars as a tool for probable cause,” St. Clair said. “An excuse to stop motorcyclists.”
Without a federal standard, the regulation of handlebars on motorcycles rests with the states. Initially New Hampshire restricted the height of handlebars to 15 inches above the saddle, a limit that applies in about a dozen states. New Hampshire later chose to set a limit bearing some relationship to the size of the rider and is one of 10 states that peg the height of handlebars to the height of the shoulder while another five require the handlebars to be below the height of the shoulder.
St. Clair said that states, prodded by motorcycle enthusiasts, have begun to repeal restrictions and currently 18 states impose no limits. In July, South Dakota, which hosts the famed annual rally in Sturgis, became the most recent state to repeal its shoulder level statute.
“I definitely want New Hampshire to be on that list,” St. Clair said of the states without restrictions. “We are home to the oldest motorcycle rally in the world and only South Dakota has more registered motorcycles (per capita) than New Hampshire. Repealing an unnecessary law that is no benefit to anybody would make the state of New Hampshire more welcoming to motorcyclists not just during Laconia Motorcycle Week but throughout the year,” he said.
Senate Bill 360 has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee. A hearing has yet to be scheduled.
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